Rugby: Counties Manukau dominate Hawke's Bay

By Campbell Burnes

Counties Manukau's Augustine Pulu lines up Ash Dixon. Photo / www.photosport.co.nz
Counties Manukau's Augustine Pulu lines up Ash Dixon. Photo / www.photosport.co.nz

Three years ago the Steelers marched into Napier and won their first Ranfurly Shield.

They brought similar intent to consign the Magpies to their third consecutive Premiership defeat and win their second match of the Mitre 10 Cup season. Hawke's Bay may have been their bogey team, but that is history now.

Augustine Pulu was inspired, the halfback outplaying his All Blacks counterpart Brad Weber in both attack and defence. Two of the Steelers' three first spell tries can be attributed to his skill and intuition.

Jordan Taufua continued his Crusaders' form in the No 7 jersey, scoring a double, bursting through from a lineout drive for his third try in as many matches and adding another to secure the bonus point.

Hawke's Bay again looked strangely out of sorts and their coach Craig Philpott made the apt halftime assertion that they looked as though they were playing with the weight of the world on their shoulders. The Magpies could gain little traction at set-piece - with Steelers No 3 Kalolo Tuiloma marking up - despite the Steelers copping several penalties for offside from referee Nick Briant.

Hawke's Bay's first half highlight was a short ball from lock Geoff Cridge which sent wing Robbie Fruean over in his comeback match. Ryan Tongia blitzed the cover for the second try. But there were too many missed one on one tackles to mount any concerted pressure on the visitors.

No 8 So'otala Fa'aso'o carried well for the Steelers, while first five Piers Francis landed his kicks, including four penalty goals in the second stanza, racked up 23 points and slotted the first drop goal of the 2016 competition.

Magpies lock Ross Filipo saw just over 15 minutes of action and must be one of the oldest debutants in union history at 37.

The Magpies are back into Premiership action next Wednesday hosting Auckland, while the Steelers are at home next Friday for a crossover clash with Wellington.

Counties Manukau 48 (Jordan Taufua 2, Luteru Laulala, Sam Vaka, Sione Fifita tries; Piers Francis 4 con, 4 pen, dg) Hawke's Bay 20 (Robbie Fruean, Ryan Tongia tries; Ihaia West 2 con, 2 pen) HT: 22-13

- NZ Herald

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